Evolution of Search Engines


Evolution of Search Engines

Although the internet is in its relative infancy, the history of the search engine has been a long and exhaustive one. Though its roots began all the way back in the first days following WWII, the early 1990’s marked the birth of the search engine. Here is its storied history.

Formulation of Initial Search Engine Ideas

In essence, a search engine utilizes certain words typed in by an individual to find websites, documents, etc. The idea for storing data and using a system to retrieve that data was first presented to the public in 1945 by Dr. Vannevar Bush in an article within the The Atlantic Monthly magazine. Vannevar stated that “selection devices will soon be speeded up from their present rate of reviewing data at a few hundred a minute.” It was this idea that permeated throughout the scientific community until it was implemented many years later.

The First Search Engine

In 1990, a search engine named Archie was founded by Alan Emtage. While merely an indexing engine that displayed files in alphabetical order, it provided the means for the first actual search engine. By utilizing a file transfer protocol, users had the ability to search for any file listed in the directory. Before the modern HTTP protocol used on the internet today, the Gopher protocol was created in the year of 1991.This protocol used a text interface and allowed users to retrieve, search and distribute files from all over the internet. The invention of the Gopher protocol helped in creating two similar offshoots to Archie, ones that were closer to what the search engine eventually become, known as Veronica and Jughead. These two search engines culled their results from the webpages in the Gopher database.

There were also a few tools, such as W3Catalog and JumpStation that were among early versions of the modern search engine, both founded in 1993. It wasn’t until the very beginning of 1994 that the first web search engine was brought online. Known as ALIWEB, this search engine would allow website owners to store index files using the engine. ALIWEB would create keywords that matched up with each page and bring the user to what they wanted to find by searching for it.

WebCrawler, also created in ’94, was the first search engine to give users the ability to search for any singular word contained on any webpage on the internet. This was the basis for all search engines to come.

The Growth in Search Engine Popularity

Through the years of ’94-’96, over a dozen search engines were brought online. Netscape, owner of a popular web browser of the same name, was a huge player in the growing popularity of search engines. They implemented a search engine page on their web browser in late ’96 that rotated the five most popular search engines of that time, which included Yahoo, Excite, Infoseek, Magellan and Lycos.

Google.com and its Rise to Prominence

It was in the year of 1998 that the Google web search engine was brought online. This engine utilized a different form of searching known as PageRank, which allows web pages to be displayed in the order of their importance, instead of by a mere word. Google was also one of the first search engines to provide what is known as a customized search, allowing for an easier way to locate specific pages on the ever-expanding internet.

In the past, many of the search engines would simply use a ranking system based on how many of the search words were found on the webpage and listed them in that order. With Google, searches started to become more specific, as the PageRank system put the webpages that were linked the most often at the top.

In ’98, Microsoft created their own search engine called MSN. While not as popular as some, it allowed for Microsoft to continue studying search engine technology, upon which they re-branded MSN into Bing in 2009. Over the years, Bing has implemented several new search engine technologies, including the listing of search results in combination with related searches, as well as more relevant search results. Google has also been progressing with similar search engine advancements. Today, search engines are able to identify exactly what a user is looking for. Who knows what they will evolve into tomorrow.


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